...decision resides in the conclusion of this known, used and accepted scientific process

Dear Editor:
The decision last Thursday to deny the renewal of mineral leases to Twin Metals Minnesota and to remove thousands of acres of Superior National Forest from mineral leasing for two years is widely regarded as a great victory for environmentalists.
This ruling by the Secretary of the Interior is certainly a win for those of us who want to keep the Kawishiwi watershed clean. It’s a win for those of us who run businesses in the Boundary Waters region that depend on the reality of clean water in the Boundary Waters and even the perception by our customers of the purity of the wilderness.
Our jobs are sustainable. Our payroll has been growing steadily for 37 years. How can anyone deny us the right to defend what we have worked so hard to build. To others this decision is a great disappointment. I believe I can empathize.
I can understand how the promises of a company like Twin Metals resonate with good folks who look to this industry for future jobs. We all want Ely to prosper. I for one want new, clean businesses that will support good paying jobs like the ones we provide for our employees.
The difference in how these two groups of people view the decision last week is very simply in whether or not each trusts a copper mining company and the industry they represent. Certainly none of us want pollution of the Kawishiwi River or Basswood Lake or Crooked Lake.
I’ve looked at the evidence and I conclude I can’t trust Twin Metals or any sulfide ore mining operation in this watershed. I believe the risk to the ecosystem, to my business, to the region’s economy is too great. I believe that the chances of damage to the ecosystem, to my business and to all of us who cherish our lives at the edge of the Boundary Waters is nearly 100%.
Others are willing to take the risk or just don’t believe there is risk. So, the process that is now underway to analyze scientifically the feasibility of sulfide ore mining in the Kawishiwi watershed will ultimately decide which side is correct. This is a process we can all trust to make wise judgement.
What needs to be understood, and is not seemingly obvious to some, is that this ruling is the start of a normal process. This is a process has been used by the Interior Department and the Forest Service before in areas equally iconic as our own Boundary Waters. It’s the process that is being used in the Grand Canyon, the great rivers of Oregon and in the Front Range of rocky mountains in Montana.
The two year moratorium on mineral leasing in the swath of the National Forest gives the agency time to evaluate the ultimate logic and wisdom of sulfide ore copper mining in this particular watershed. This process is not about taconite mining as some have tried to mislead the public into believing. It is the process that everyone who wants science to rule the day should support.
This is the legal, normal and scientifically backed process to making a decision that will prevent us from wondering for years or even decades if this type of mining would ever be permitted in this watershed. This decision will ultimately allow or disallow Twin Metals or any other company from going on to further expense in pursuit of a copper mine in this one particular watershed.
It makes sense to know from the outset if spending more money to produce a mine plan and to fund an environmental impact statement for a potential mine makes any sense at all. Industries in general like knowing what the rules are. This process and its conclusions will set the rules in our region and could end up saving this industry millions of dollars or give them confidence that their money will be wisely spent down the line.
The delay is two years of waiting and will irritate some people but the reality is that with copper prices as low as they are and likely will remain low, the wait will be far longer anyway.
Surely the indication from the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior warn of dire consequences of sulfide ore copper mining here but the ultimate decision resides in the conclusion of this known, used and accepted scientific process. It’s the process that those who want science to be the judge of the decision should all support.
Steve Piragis
Ely